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3.3.1 What do I really need to know about dehydrating food?


This article is from the Food Preserving FAQ, by Eric Decker ericnospam@getcomputing.com with numerous contributions by others.

3.3.1 What do I really need to know about dehydrating food?

from Cassandra Richardson (Jan 11, 1996)

>What about the type advertised on TV (Ronco?) are they worthwhile?

My opinion is that most people buy kitchen gadget and find they
novelty wears off. Why not buy a cheap one and see if you really get
much use out of it. I dry herbs and tomatoes and occasionally I dry
smoked salmon after it comes out of the smoker (cuts down on the
running in and out of the house); however, most of the people I know
never use theirs.

from Leslie Basel (Feb 4, 1996)

If you are uncertain about how much use you will get out of a
dehydrator, you might want to try using your oven as a dehydrator. I
have done tomatoes for years in the oven, and I am certain that if you
have the patience to fiddle around, you could make some dried things
and see how much dried stuff you use. If you find that you are making
and using dried things, remember that a dehydrator is much easier to
use than the oven. You develop the interest first, then the specialized

That being said, many folks use dehydrators to make dried fruit for
healthier snacks, dry herbs (dried tarragon in the supermarket is
astronomical). If you do any camping, you could dry trail mix and
meals to reconstitute for later on. Some canning recipes call for
dried fruits for a richer flavor. Mostarda is a mustard/dried
fruit compote, good for meats.

A garden is a capital idea, but an orchard much less so. You might
want to ask your friends and neighbors if they are living with a
fruit tree. We used to be shameless about asking around. If we got
fruit, we dry it and can it, then give some to the tree owner as a
gift. It just seems a bit too much work to raise a fruit tree up to
maturity to see if you have an interest in food dehydration.
What ever you do, good luck and have fun.

from Wendy Milner (pre-1996)

When looking for a dehydrator, consider volume. How much volume will
you be using now, and how much in the near future? Additionally, if
you like fruit roll ups, look for a screen with a very fine mesh. This
would be in addition to the regular sized screen. The fine mesh is
also good for drying herbs. I use a convection oven with dehydrate
features. Very convenient since I do not have to pull out another

from Gary Yandle (pre-1996)

The reason you want a temperature control on a dehydrator is that different
kinds of food dry at different temperature. Herbs dry best at about 90 to
100 degrees F. Vegetables at about 110 to 120 degrees F. Fruit is best
dried at 120 to 130 and meat from 135 to 145 degrees F. The whole idea
is to dry the food quickly so as to preserve as much of the flavor and
vitamins as possible without cooking the food. Another must have when
buying a dehydrator is look for one that has a fan. Good air circulation
is a must for fast drying. Also look for one that has trays that are easy
to clean. If the trays have places on them that you cannot get a scrub
brush into then you will never be able to get it clean. (Do not let
anyone tell you that dehydrating food is a clean operation, cinnamon
apples and beef jerky make a big mess).

from Connie TenClay (Dec 7, 1995)

I would suggest getting a electric dehydrator as it can be used year
around and is convenient. Also I feel that a fan as well as a heat
source is important. Without a fan the food dries much slower and not
as evenly. While a thermostat is not mandatory it certainly makes for
a better product. i.e. meats can use a higher temp than fruits to
dehydrate. I have found that one of the best books about dehydration
is the HP book "How to Dry Foods" by Deanna Delong. If you have any
other question I would be happy to try to answer them. I have been
dehydrating food for over 20 years with every thing from trays over a
furnace duct to home made electric dehydrator to the commercial one
that I have now.
Please take a look at the dehydrator sources/suppliers/more specific
details in Specific Equipment Questions (in Part 4).


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